Immigration–both legal and illegal–is one of the hottest topics in American politics today. Despite the widespread perception that Donald Trump created the current wave of anti-immigration sentiment in this country, it has actually been around for quite a while before him. Trump merely served to catalyze this sentiment’s departure from the shadows and into the limelight, an opening of the Overton Window, if you will. However, Americans have become increasingly disenchanted with our broken and anti-American immigration policy for over two decades. Mark Krikorian was writing about the need to restrict immigration back in 2008. Before that, the American Right successfully pressured Congress into rejecting–if narrowly–George W. Bush’s effort to push through amnesty. Even before Bush’s administration, Pat Buchanan was laying the groundwork for a return to an America First immigration policy by focusing his discussion both on jobs and on culture.
However, with the ever-increasing likelihood that the Trumpening of America will become a reality, it’s time to transition from simply calling for “less immigration” toward a more constructive view of how our immigration policies actually ought to be reformed and crafted. What would the elements be of a genuinely rational immigration policy look like?
First, any immigration policy must, must, must revolve around the fundamental premise that it operates for the good of this nation and the people of this nation. It will take America’s needs into account. The mere desire of people from other countries to come here will not, and should not be, a concern. If America needs you, you may come in. If we don’t, then that’s too bad. The assessment of these needs will be realistic and rational, and will be based on what will benefit us. This will be the premise that drives everything else. Ideally, it would be coupled with long-term policies designed to encourage Americans to enter the STEM and other fields which currently constitute most of the “need” for ever-expanding H1-B and other visa programs. Make spaces for Americans first, and then fill in the holes with talented foreigners. Likewise, first priority of access to the “low skill” labor market must be given to the millions of Americans who have been displaced by cheap foreign laborers who have essentially destroyed our wage scale.
Second, and related to the above, the restricted access to America’s job market must be coupled with efforts to guarantee the quality of the immigrants for whom the doors are opened. While we do not really need millions of low-skill, no-education Paco-the-lettuce-pickers, we certainly could use some Robertos with doctoral degrees in organic chemistry. The system must have rigorous “quality controls” in place. This isn’t unprecedented. Even back in the “good old days” of mass immigration through Ellis island and all that, we turned away all kinds of people who didn’t meet the criteria we were looking for or who were thought to be potential detriments to our society–the criminally inclined, those with low IQs, those with diseases, those who were suspected of not being willing to work. So today, we must take greater steps to screen out known criminals, those with low IQs, those with no special skills, and so forth. Our policy on immigration should be that those who do come here should enrich, rather than dilute, the quality of our society.
Third, we should do away with “short term” immigration. If someone comes here from abroad to live and work, then there should be the intention on their part to actually go all the way and become Americans. This will increase their ties to and loyalty for this nation. Only the seriously committed will want to come. Those who just want to make money and send it home will be less able to do so. Those who come to work for a few years and then carry our industrial and technological knowledge back home will be excluded. On the other hand, those who wish to entrust themselves to America and become one of us may do so.
Fourth, assimilation must be mandatory. Any sane immigration policy must recognize that there is no such thing as “magic soil.” Mere geographical location does not impart a new outlook on life. If someone is going to become an American, then they must become an American, not a “technically” American who is really still a foreigner in heart and spirit. It is common to speak of “ugly Americans” who go overseas and then expect everyone in foreign countries to cater and adapt to them. We should end the phenomenon of “ugly Mexicans” and “ugly Vietnamese” and “ugly Nigerians” who immigrate here and then form ethnic enclaves, expecting that the signs and the ballots will be printed in their native languages, that Americans will bend over backwards to avoid offending any of their cultural sensitivities, and all the rest. Diversity destroys a nation, and we must not allow it among the immigrants we allow to come in. Both those yet to come under such a policy, as well as those already here, must be strongly encouraged to assimilate, learn English, adopt our mores, and so forth. Failure to do so according to quantifiable measures should result in termination of any visas and green cards. There must be a conscious deracination of any foreign elements and their absorption into the social body of America.
Fifth – and this really should go without saying – we must adopt a zero tolerance policy towards illegal immigration. Build the wall. Enforce the laws against hiring illegals. Deport illegals as they come in contact with law enforcement. Encourage self-deportation. Strictly oversee welfare programs to ensure that nobody here illegally is receiving a dime. Doing these will not be nearly as expensive as the long-term costs of not doing them. One commonly expressed policy idea that should not be coupled with this is that of permanently excluding all who have ever come here illegally. Such a policy would actually serve to retard the repatriation of illegal immigrants as it would remove from them the hope of being able to return legally some day, and hence make them more determined to evade the enforcement of the laws. In the spirit of the points above, if there are people here illegally but who genuinely would make serious positive contributions to our society, my belief is that we should allow them to do so–as they obey our laws and come here in the manner that we have prescribed.
Really, while I am sure that these suggestions would be met with howls of indignation in many circles, I don’t really see them as anything other than a simple restatement of common sense. Of course a well-reasoned immigration policy will look to our needs first, will encourage national unity, will reject the divisiveness of “diversity,” and will act to protect the interests of the “Average Joe” Americans who constitute this nation. Whether all, or even any, of these goals would be met post-Trumpening is anyone’s guess. However, these ought to be put out there into the marketplace of ideas so that they can serve to leaven the discussion on immigration with a little common sense.
Tim Dunkin blogs at Neo-Ciceronian Times.